Think of Kia as the Taylor Swift of the auto world. Just like Ms. Swift, this Korean powerhouse keeps delivering hit after hit after hit.
The car maker’s latest chart-topper? That would be the 2023 Sportage compact SUV and, in particular, the fuel-sipping, 38-to-the-gallon Hybrid version I just spent a week piloting.
This is Kia’s fifth generation Sportage which, again like Taylor, just seems to get better with age.
What’s new and improved? Pretty much everything, starting with size. Compared to the outgoing model, this newcomer is a whopping seven inches longer overall, and 3.4 inches longer between the wheels.
That has given the Sportage a huge increase in interior space, especially in the back seat. Now you’re looking at the difference between coach and business. Stretch out, cross your legs, relax. The rear seat even reclines. Ahhhh.
Those extra inches mean there’s also more space for stuff. With the folding rear seats in place, you get an impressive 39.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
Now flip forward that 60/40-split rear seat and luggage space jumps to an impressive 73 cubic feet. Pump-up the air mattress, pin curtains to the windows, and you’d have a great Airbnb.
To me, where the new Sportage really stands out is in its cool, head-rotating styling. This thing looks like it’s just spent a month at the gym powerlifting with John Cena.
Whereas the previous-gen Sportage was all cute and curvy with that puckered-lips “Tiger Nose” trademark Kia grille, this new version has bulked-up and been working on its abs.
Cool front-end design too, with that big, broad, blacked-out honeycomb grille and silvery highlights. Love too those distinctive, Nike swoosh-like LED daytime running lights.
Our tester was also painted in the coolest shade of darkish blue I’ve seen in ages. Called Vesta Blue, it flips between navy, black, and dark green depending on how the light hits it.
Climb aboard and the surprise and delights just keep on coming. This is the mid-range EX version I’m driving—it sits between base LX and fancy SX—but it’s crammed with luxury features. Everything from push-button start to a 12.3-inch touchscreen display with navigation, and power lumbar support.
And the look, feel and quality of the materials is just terrific. Our tester came with creamy SynTex upholstery that looks more like leather than leather. And the off-white of the seats contrasted beautifully with the dark blue dash and steering wheel.
Powering this hybrid Sportage is a combo of 1.6-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine mated to a 44-kilowatt electric motor that’s juiced by a 1.5kWh lithium-polymer battery.
Together, the threesome delivers a combined 227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Standstill to 60mph sprinting takes just over seven seconds, but that electric assist off the line makes it feel a lot quicker.
This impressive powertrain includes a Teflon-smooth six-speed automatic and a trio of selectable drive modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport. There are also paddle shifters to add to the fun factor.
And this all-new, West Point, Georgia-built Sportage Hybrid really is a bundle of fun to drive. Its steering is precise and nicely weighted, its ride smooth with a touch of sporty firmness, and there’s a real poise and balance through the curves.
All-wheel drive is standard on the EX Hybrid and it adds to the trucklette’s agility, as well as providing peace of mind when you have to extract yourself from that grassy, waterlogged ballpark parking lot.
That hybrid powertrain also does wonders for fuel economy. The EPA estimates city, highway, and combined mileage at 38mpg across the board.
And when it comes to price, this is where the Sportage Hybrid really shines. Our Hybrid EX AWD stickered at just $32,205 including $1,215 destination. Even with the $1,500 Premium Package—including a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting, and powered tailgate—the total was only $33,705.
As to one of Taylor’s hits that best describes this new Sportage Hybrid? I’d go with “You Belong With Me.”